VAttican scandal If it is not colorful, there is nothing. The latest include blackmail allegations, kidnapped nuns, and security professionals alleged to have swayed huge amounts of Holy Sea money into luxury goods and services.
On July 3, a Vatican judge tried 10 people, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, on charges of embezzlement, abuse of authority, blackmail, and fraud. Everything denies cheating. The news was overshadowed by the announcement the next day that Pope Francis was undergoing surgery to remove part of his colon. However, the trial scheduled for July 27 is likely to leave a more lasting mark on his Pope.
Cardinal Bechiu was Francis’ friend and former Deputy Secretary of State, considered his successor, the second most powerful official in the bureaucracy of the Holy Place. Among his fellow defendants is a former president and director of the Vatican financial regulator. The indictment suggests that Francis will spare no one in his determination to cleanse the Vatican’s dark finances. But they also question his method.
The prosecutor involved three chains in one trial. The first to urge the Cardinal to be dismissed last year is related to his payment of € 100,000 ($ 118,000) to a parish co-operative run by his brother. The second concerns the relationship with Cecilia Marogna, who he hired as a consultant and his office allegedly poured € 575,000. This money was for operations, including securing the release of a kidnapped nun in Colombia. Prosecutors say much of the cash was spent in places like Prada and Louis Vuitton and in hot springs.
At the heart of this tangled skein is real estate transactions. Cardinal Becciu is said to have influenced the State Department’s € 350 million investment in commercial real estate in London. The money, which was constructed in a very complex way, was invested through a fund run by an Italian financial firm based in London. The secretariat was originally a minority shareholder, mainly using money donated by believers. However, dissatisfied with the arrangement, another Italian intermediary, who decided to buy all his property in 2018 and put a € 15 million fee in his pocket, allegedly extorted by Vatican prosecutors. I relied on Gianluigi Torzi. Vatican financial regulators, who became involved in the negotiations with Mr. Torzi, have been accused of not reporting the transaction to the prosecutor beyond their authority.
Whether it is wise to bring regulators to justice is one concern. The other is whether the defendant can be heard fairly. Their lawyer was given only 24 days to complete a 487-page invoice. The third is whether the Vatican is shifting responsibility. According to Mr. Torji, the Pope knew of his involvement. And his right arm, Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, approved it. Tricky, your holiness. ■■
This article was published in the European section of the printed version under the heading “Vatican shook”.